e-mail : email@example.com Phone : 907-229-5267
Mallard Hen : Traditional Alaska school decoys are large magnum sizes with ultra light totally hollow body and head. Unique realistic paint schemes with muted totally flat colors. Carved indented wings over expanded side boxes. Worlds only monocoque stressed skin design decoy body hollow to within and eight of an inch to the outer skin. These are are all hallmarks of the Alaska school of wildfowl carving. Alaska school decoys are wood decoys taken to the ultimate conclusion of what a wood working decoy can be. Air weight ultra light and tough. These decoys display the highest craftsmanship possible in a wood decoy. Buyers tell me they feel this is the first time they can buy into a school of working decoys as other schools started over a hundred years ago and for once they can buy at the bottom. Alaska school decoys range in prices of $485 to 680 depending on species and other factors. Call or e-mail for recent market price.
I believe that the Alaska school of decoys are a true representation of Alaskan Folk Art and are being recognized as such. The Last Frontier of Wildfowling makes this possible and I am glad I was able to participate in helping to educate, promote and advocate for our great Waterfowling heritage that is a living heritage that is truly Alaskan.
SNARED BEAR ON THE YUKON RIVER
Living in the wilds of Alaska has many challenges that most Americans will never experience. Everyday survival for a family in wilderness is very different than reality TV shows about survival depict.
In the 1970’s my family and I were living “off the country” on the vast Yukon river system where there are no roads and all travel is by boat, dog team or snowmobile.
We had built a cabin and set nets for salmon. Living in a 70 mile long valley where no one else lived tends to make you self-sufficient. We had a team of sled dogs for our long line trap trails. In the summer and fall we would put up many salmon for dog feed in the winter months. The salmon would be dried and smoked in the summer in a large smokehouse about the size of a garage.
In much of Alaska, this type of living is referred to as subsistence living. Today, even with the Native Indians and Eskimo this lifestyle had died out to a large degree, living full time in the Alaska bush country. The easy of modern living has replaced the old ways. I learned my craft from old time professional woodsman and Alaska trappers both Indian, Eskimo and white, which exist no more or are very old. In the 70’s old rivermen, dog team trappers, original Yukon gold miners and assorted Alaska bush rats were still around and you could learn a lot if you wanted to and I did.
Checking our nets and cleaning and cutting the salmon took many hours of hard work. A lot of wood was needed to be cut for smoking the fish. This was in addition to the six cords of wood we needed just to keep our cabin warm in weather as cold as 60 degrees below zero in the Alaskan sub-arctic winter. The fire needed to be kept going day and night. Since this salmon smokehouse was on the high bank of the river where the wind blew lightly most of the time, it was a scented calling card for traveling bears.
We had shot a number of bears, one even from the cabin door, drawn to our area by the scent of smoked salmon. With children present we did not need bears as with wild animals you never know what they might do. Animals do not have the same traits as humans, although it is now popular to believe they do. In our modern age, some may say that people are now unpredictable too.
One summer we had a clever rouge robber bear that would break into the smokehouse to steal our hard won fish. The smokehouse was made from spruce poles and rusty old corrugated sheet metal. All the bear had to do was pull at the sheet metal long enough and it would usually give enough for the bear to reach in and grab some salmon off the drying and smoking rack. After a few days of seeing that the bear was going to continue to do this almost every night, I put out a bear snare made of ¼ inch cable.
I narrowed down the main trail to the smokehouse and set the snare to a willow tree about the size of a large man’s upper arm. The willow was very strong and very flexible. The snare was fixed high about five feet off the ground and the head loop at just the right distance off the ground where a bears head would be as he was walking. Small branches were set under the snare to guide the bears head into the snare loop if the head was held low.
I was an experienced trapper and thought that I could make quick work snaring this salmon thief. We depended on this salmon for winter food along with the sled dogs.
For days the bear would visit the smokehouse but never enter the snare. This was a wise old bruin it seemed. One night the snare was knocked down from the small branch that held it the height of the bears head, but no bear. There did not seem to be any way the bear could pass the snare without entering it. The smell of smoking salmon was so strong in the air that I was sure that the bear could not smell the trapper, which was me, or the snare.
One night there was no stolen salmon and I thought the bear had passed up or down the river and left the area. The next night the bear was back and up to old tricks again which included not getting caught. I had about had it and had more important things like chores to tend to. This phantom bear was getting to me in a big way.
The next day my wife visited the scene of the bear’s crimes with me and we viewed the snare which was knocked down once again. This made me mad and I told her that I had had it and was not going to bother to reset the snare, but make regular visits at night with my rifle and wait for periods to see if the bear came.
Seeing the snare my wife insisted on letting her try setting the snare. I told her that you needed to be a trapping expert like me to do such a thing as it required a lot of skill and experience too. I soon gave in to her insistence and told her to try it and went to the smokehouse to add more wood to the fire. I told my wife that indeed she was wasting her time. She laughed and said that we already had seen what the trapping expert could do, which was not much.
We returned to the cabin and I did not give the snare much thought the rest of the day and did not return to the snare until the next day. As I came upon the trail there was the bear wrapped around the willow tree, stone dead. There was a deep ring in the ground around the willow the length of the snare where the bear put up a terrific quick struggle before he died. The carnage and destruction of the ground and tree along with the deep raceway around the willow gave grave testament to the strength and effectiveness of the manmade cable snare and the relative humane and quick death. The bear had run his last race in vain all for the love of the taste of our salmon. The bear’s death came quicker than most in the natural wild world of the north, where tooth and claw rule and no quarter is ever given, especially by bears.
I ran to the cabin to tell my wife and we went back to the bear trail to see the bear and the damage at the snare site. It turned out that a women’s touch was what was needed to snare an Alaskan bear.
World Famous Alaska Palmer Hay Flats
One of the worlds most beautiful Wildfowl marshes written about by one of the greatest outdoor writers in an article: "SKYFULL of BRIGHT WINGS"
We do most of our unique traditional hunts here over Alaska school wood decoys using Alaska "Call of the Wild" duck calls.
The "flats" is located on one of the major flyways out of Alaska. Alaska produces 10 million waterfowl each season.
Alaska is twice the size of Texas with half the roads of Delaware and contains many of the most remote, productive and wild waterfowl marshes in North America. This is the last Frontier of wildfowling.
Limits are 8 ducks of any species except only 1 Canvasback. 4 Dark Geese, 4 white Geese and 2 Cranes.
Join me for a once in a lifetime hunt. Rates for Alaska Residents $375 per day. Non-residents $485 per day. 907-229-5267
BUILDING WORLDS LIGHTEST WOOD DUCK DECOY
by Mike Robinson
This paper shows some of the design and construction methods of building the Alaska School working wood decoy. These decoys are the worlds lightest wood decoys ever built and are hollow to within an 1/8 of the outer skin. The heads are also hollow. These decoys are large magnum style and are light as a feather and lighter than most plastic decoys. The bodies are made of British Columbia Canada Western Silver Pine and heads are often Western Red Cedar. I have photos of different models of Pintails here below.
This above photo is the middle section of the 3 sections that make up the decoy. It was cut out with a band saw of 2 inch stock. A gouge and crooked knife were used for the final hollowing to make for tapered side boxes and the band saw cut glued shut.
I believe this is the top section of same decoy that has been hollowed with a drill press bit and because it got thin strengthened with application of a coat of Gorilla expanding glue and also to seal nail holes that held the 3 pieces of wood together while the decoy was carved.
This is the top of another decoy I believe that was a more elongated typical Pintail style. You can see the 3 nail holes as talked about in the above photo. Also visible are the drill press markings.
This is 2 straight sided decoy halves joined with glue and pinned. This is a tight front swimming style decoy of the Alaska school. Not shown in the photo is a wood shelf in the front section that the hollow head sits on. Note hollow 3 piece head in background.
You can see here that the top body panel has been added and how the head sits on the shelf. This is more of an unusual decoy model and pattern I don't make a lot of. The flat tail is not used often also. This was an attempt to cut the time required to make the usual full body top panel. Note putty on decoy, now ready for paint. Quite a bit of gluing and sanding is required to complete decoy. When done right they are watertight and ultra-light. This style requires no keel for closed water marsh and dance on the water with the slightest breeze. To save time a straight side body was used over the usual tapered side box style as in the 1st photo. Because the complex nature of ultra hollow decoys and the deconstruction process necessary to make them, no time was saved in the construction of this model overall. Like all great North American decoys these designs follow a known historic sequence as to type, regional design and knowledge of known famous carvers that is built and expanded upon.